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Run like a ‘G.I.R.L.’

Providing positive, alternative messaging for junior high age girls

Campus and Community

By Sandy Woolfrey-Fahey

For two dozen young girls, this year’s Terry Fox Run was about more than fundraising.

It was also an opportunity to push themselves to reach their personal goals, while supporting each other.

Body positive movement

They’re part of G.I.R.L. (Girls Into Running for Life) Run Club, which inspires junior high age girls to explore running in a body positive environment.

Holly Foley, director and co-founder, started the club eight years ago to help young girls feel good about themselves and their bodies. She says running has had a positive impact on her life and saw the program as a way to share her love for the sport.

“It started with my interest in trying to create a space for young girls to learn to enjoy physical activity in an inclusive, safe and body positive environment,” she said. “I wanted them to be able to challenge their physical fitness in a non-competitive way.”

The club promotes effort and not who is the fastest, so everyone feels a sense of accomplishment after every run. By the end of the 10-week program, the girls can comfortably cover a 5-6 kilometre distance using a run/walk method as they did on Sept. 18 at a local Terry Fox event.

“I liked that they didn’t just say we are going to run five kilometres from the start,” said participant Olivia Fifield. “They started at a minute and got us to build up to the 5K.”

HKR student volunteer gives back

The G.I.R.L. Run Club has the support of volunteer female leaders. One of the volunteers this year, Angela Pope, was a participant of the program while she was in junior high school. She is a current kinesiology student in the School of Human Kinetics and Recreation. The G.I.R.L. Run Club was where she started running; she’s kept up with her training, going longer and longer distances. She ran her first Tely 10 this summer.

“It’s been really good to be back because I can relate to the girls when they are feeling challenged or when they want to stop,” Ms. Pope explained. “Knowing the benefits that can come out of it, I definitely want them to keep going and encourage them.”

She also found the opportunity to use what she’s learned in the classroom, as she explains in the video below.

Future run clubs

The G.I.R.L. Run Club is focused on growing running opportunities for all youths in Newfoundland and Labrador.

“We want to expand G.I.R.L. Run Club to other parts of the province,” said Ms. Foley. “Also, we must acknowledge that we also need to find something for young males who want to be involved in physical activity in a non-competitive environment.”

G.I.R.L. Run Club has no registration cost, thanks to the contribution of community partners such Memorial University’s School of Human Kinetics and Recreation, the Department of Seniors, Wellness and Social Developmen,t and donations from other groups and individuals.

More information about the G.I.R.L. Run Club, is on the club’s Facebook page or email Holly Foley.

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